Tag Archive for 'Mother-Daughter Book Clubs'

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Book Review: The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

The Truth About Twinkie Pie cover imageSince their mom died when GiGi was a baby, her big sister DiDi has taken care of her. DiDi works hard to make sure GiGi gets what she needs to excel in school and prepare for college. So when she wins a lot of money in a contest, she decides the two of them should move to Long Island where GiGi can attend a challenging prep school.

GiGi sees it as an opportunity to reinvent herself without leaving the things she likes about her life behind. She makes waves as well as friends and enemies in her new town. But her desire to find a special present for her older sister’s birthday will lead her to a shocking discovery about her family.

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh is about family, friends, and making a better life for yourself when the opportunity arises. As GiGi tries to figure out how to fit into her new, upper-class environment, she learns that people can have troubles no matter what their situation in life.

Sprinkled with recipes from the girls’ trailer park, South Carolina roots, it’s an endearing story that will have you whipping up the dishes described even as you ponder the life situations they serve. I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 to 16.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Always Emily by Michaela MacColl

Always Emily cover imageCharlotte and Emily Bronte are two of the most enduring authors in English literature. Charlotte, who wrote Jane Eyre, and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, were no strangers to tragedy in their own lives. Their mother died young and so did two sisters. They were raised in a parsonage with their father, brother, and younger sister Anne, who also went on to become a published author.

Michaela MacColl brings these beloved authors to life, and adds a bit of mystery for them to solve, in her new book for young adults, Always Emily. MacColl draws heavily upon known facts, like Charlotte teaching at a boarding school where Emily briefly attends, to weave a fictional story that takes place on the moors, so much a part of the sisters’ writing. She shows Charlotte and Emily as two very different people, often in conflict, but who nonetheless love and admire each other’s strengths.

An Author’s Note at the end gives a bit of background information about the Bronte family and the tragedies that befell it. Mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up may have fun reading Always Emily and then picking up the classics by the Bronte sisters, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Stop by tomorrow to see what author Michaela MacColl has to say about the Bronte family, her inspiration for Always Emily.

Book Clubs Can Help Coax Reluctant Readers to Read More

If you’re worried that your daughter won’t want to be in a mother-daughter book club because she doesn’t like to read, don’t be discouraged. A book club can be a great place to nurture a love of reading for children of all ages, particularly if you feel that your child’s interest in books has not been piqued. For one thing, when you get together for meetings she’ll see other moms as well as her peers talking about books they enjoyed reading. If she has fun in the social time of book club, it may encourage her to put effort into the preparation time, which involves reading the book.

What if your daughter doesn’t like to read fiction? A book club can include nonfiction, poetry, and many different types of fiction. Reading a variety of genres can help her discover that she likes to read more than she thinks she does.

While it may be true that your daughter can’t choose every book you read in book club herself, you can talk with other members about adding more genres to your selections.

When we started a book club with my youngest daughter, she didn’t like spending much time with a book. She was active and loved being outdoors often, and I worried that she wouldn’t want to stay in the group if she wasn’t interested in the books. But we read lots of different genres in our first year: two non-fiction memoirs, one book of historical fiction, two fantasy tales and one novel about a girl in modern times. The variety helped my daughter get much more interested in reading than she had been previously.

Of course, if you suspect your child has an underlying difficulty in understanding how to read, the tactics above may not help. You may want to talk to her teacher about diagnosing possible learning disabilities if you see her struggling to decode words that she should be able to understand.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book cover imageA man named Jack murders Bod’s family when Bod is just a toddler. Bod toddled to escape unaware he was escaping or that he was toddling into a graveyard, where the permanent occupants decide to raise him with the help of a guardian who can come and go and bring food and clothing.

As Bod grows he has the run of the graveyard,; he even masters some of the skills usually not shared with the living. But eventually he becomes curious about the world outside the gates and seeks to learn more about the land of the living. What he doesn’t know is that the man named Jack never forgets about the baby who got away, and Jack is certain that one day he will find what he’s looking for to finish the job he started.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has an unlikely start for a children’s book: a family killed for unknown reasons. But this Newbery winning story doesn’t dwell on the details that lead to Bod’s childhood in the graveyard. Instead it tells the tale of a child raised unconventionally, by parents and guardians who are by definition not normal, yet he knows he’s loved and cared for unconditionally.

Bod’s adventures both inside and outside the graveyard’s iron gates and stone walls are inventive and intriguing. And his foray into the school system will certainly have some readers wishing they had his skills in dealing with bullies. The action, while somewhat dark and creepy, stays appropriate for young readers without an undue amount of anxiety and tension as the story builds to a climax.

Pen and ink illustrations in black and white capture the feeling of the graveyard and its inhabitants. There’s even a bit of history woven into the stories that Bod learns from those who died at different times over the past century. Gaiman’s mastery of storytelling, including some elements of fantasy involving ghouls, ancient creatures, and a long-lived criminal society, makes The Graveyard Book a great choice for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12. I highly recommend it.

Author Claudia Mills Talks About Crafting a Three-Dimensional Mother-Daughter Relationship

As part of the blog tour for Claudia Mills and her new book Zero Tolerance, the author is sharing her thoughts on the mother-daughter relationship in her book. Mills’s  insight about her characters is relevant to real mothers and their daughters as well. Zero Tolerance is a great choice for mother-daughter book club readers where the girls are aged 9 to 12. Check back tomorrow for my full review and the chance to win a copy of the book.

A little background on the author:

Claudia Mills is the author of many chapter and middle-grade books, including 7 x 9=Trouble!; How Oliver Olson Changed the World; and, most recently, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen. She also teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She lives in Boulder, Colorado. To learn more, visit her website:claudiamillsauthor.com Also, you may want to check out the remaining stops on the blog tour:

Fri, Sept 13—The Children’s Book Review
Sun, Sept 15—Nerdy Book Club
Mon, Sept 16—Geo Librarian
Tues, Sept 17—A Life Bound by Books

Crafting a Three-Dimensional Mother-Daughter Relationship

Claudia Mills photo

Claudia Mills. Photo by Larry Harwood.

In Zero Tolerance I gave my main character, Sierra, an extremely difficult problem to face: the threat of expulsion from the school she loves, at the hand of the principal she loves, for the innocent mistake of bringing the wrong lunch to school on an otherwise ordinary day. While some (highly successful) authors seek to intensify the magnitude of their protagonists’ central problem by forcing them to face it utterly alone, I can never make myself do that. I have to give my characters support from somewhere, whether it’s close friends or a loving family, or both.

In Zero Tolerance, Sierra’s friends Lexi and Em are on her side from start to finish, although her “friend” Celeste seems almost to take smug pleasure in Sierra’s downfall. Her father is her champion, but the intensity of his retaliatory campaign to destroy the principal is more frightening than reassuring to Sierra. Her crush, Colin, organizes a petition campaign on her behalf, but for motives that aren’t what Sierra hoped they would be. The purest and deepest support Sierra receives in the story comes from her mother.

My challenge in developing the character of Sierra’s mom was to make her a warm, loving, constantly supportive presence in Sierra’s life without making her too perfect. I am a mother myself of two sons now 21 and 24, and I know for a fact that no mothers are perfect. None!

Sierra’s mother, usually not a confrontational person, is willing to barge into the principal’s office on Sierra’s behalf. She researches an alternative arts-focused school to increase Sierra’s options. She serves Sierra comforting foods, like cream-cheese-stuffed waffles with fresh strawberries and hot chocolate a tray in bed (okay, she is definitely a better mother than I ever was!). She knows that ice cream is one of the best cures for a broken heart. She is on Sierra’s side completely, totally, nonjudgmentally, from beginning to end.

Where Sierra’s mother is flawed, I would say, is in her relationship with Sierra’s highly controlling attorney father. Sierra’s dad is the character in the book whom readers dislike most. He’s somewhat of a bully and a tyrant. Yet I hope that he feels real rather than caricatured, and that he’s not without redeeming characteristics. Sierra’s mother says that Sierra’s father’s one chink in his armor is his love for Sierra; it’s his most positive and redeeming character trait as well.

Although Sierra’s mother does defend herself occasionally against her husband’s domineering ways, their marriage is problematic in its power dynamics, even as both parents love each other and Sierra. They even fell in love with each other based on a misunderstanding. Yet from misunderstanding can arise true and lasting affection. Why does Sierra’s mother stay with someone so arrogant and overbearing? Because she loves him, and because he loves her.

If I were to write a sequel to Zero Tolerance, I’d like to see Sierra’s mother able to stand up even more to Sierra’s father. I’d love to see her gain some public recognition for her playwriting efforts. I’d try to make the power dynamics of the Shepards’ marriage shift more in her favor. But I hope she still makes those great waffles!

And I hope that she never becomes too perfect. A completely perfect mother would be imperfect just for that very reason, because perfection is so unbelievably annoying—in mothers, in daughters, in anyone.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Clover Tree by Kimberly Foster

The Clover Tree cover imageOccasionally I accept guest reviews, and I recently received several from moms talking about a book for teens called The Clover Tree by Kimberly Foster. I’m featuring those reviews, along with an offer by Foster to give away 5 autographed copies of The Clover Tree to readers at Mother Daughter Book Club. com. Here’s the synopsis of the book from publisher Balboa Press, followed by the reviews. If you’d like to enter your name to win a copy, just leave a comment here before midnight (PDT), Tuesday, April 9 (U.S. and Canadian addresses only please). (Please note: the giveaway is closed. See the comments for a note on the winners.)

From Balboa Press:

Even a magical clover can’t make adolescence any easier.

Sporty Kate Malone has a powerful ally, full access to a magical clover field. At thirteen, the ability to manifest a pair of designer jeans, an A on a math test, and best yet, a first boyfriend have never been more opportune. Yet Kate’s desire to be popular outweighs the prudent decision to keep her clover field a secret, and she jeopardizes both her popularity and her belief system. Then, in an instant, worrying about sitting at the cool table at lunch is overshadowed by tragedy. Kate strays into a teenage world that is tempting and destructive. Will Kate sabotage her soccer aspirations and friendships? Can she use the power of the clover to save herself?

Reviews from moms in mother-daughter book clubs in Bellevue, Washington:

“We loved this story! Once we “fell into” the book, we couldn’t put it down. It was funny and sad. Although Kate goes through a real hard life experience, The Clover Tree is an inspiring story of setting life goals and staying focused on them. Kate’s relationship with her father is so touching and the story is a reminder of how important family and true friends are in our lives.”  — Brooke and mom, Marie

“My daughter Madelyn took it first and could not put it down. She just kept saying how great it was. She thinks it is geared for her age (14) and REALLY loved it! She finished it in one night.”  — Laura (mom)

Review from Hay House Radio

“Kimberly Foster’s innate ability to write about teen angst is a wonder in itself. Combined with the intricate and complex subject of self-realization and manifestation woven throughout the pages, The Clover Tree becomes much more than your typical teen read. It’s a road map for teens and adults alike.  Embedded in realistic fiction, The Clover Tree teaches tangible tools for reaching your goals and manifesting your dreams in a way that most other teen reads fall short.”  — Jennifer Morris, Co-host of “Bright New Voices, The Balboa Press Hour!”  Hay House Radio

Book Club Bookmarks Can Be Treasures to Keep

Many mother-daughter book clubs I have been in touch with like to do crafts before they sit down to talk about the book they have read. While some change up their crafts for every meeting and match it to something in the book, others make a bookmark each time. Inspired by something in the book they’re are discussing, these bookmarks also act as scattered scrapbooks, reminding members of the titles they have read over the years.

Bookmarks are easy to make. You can start by looking for a template to download or create your own blank bookmarks using card stock or colored paper. Creativity-Portal.com (www.creativity-portal.com) offers several templates for you to download, print and cut out. Just enter “bookmark template” in the search box on the website. If you prefer to make your own template, Creativity Portal provides instructions for that too.

You’ll want to gather everything you need for making the bookmarks before everyone arrives for the meeting. Items you may want to have on hand include glue, scissors, glitter, no. 2 pencils, colored pencils, blank paper, rulers, and stickers. You could even gather images from magazines that the girls can cut out to make a collage. Or you could paint images on paper with watercolor or acrylics.

Once everyone is gathers around at the meeting, you can encourage them to think of something from the book that they especially liked or remember. Then have them draw a rough draft of what they have in mind on  blank paper. Once the rough draft is done, you can spend about 20 minutes or so actually creating those images on the stock that will be the finished bookmark.

If you want to make the bookmarks last even with heavy use through multiple books over the years, you can seal them between two sheets of laminate paper (found in office supply stores). Another idea is to keep them between the pages of the books that inspired them. Then if you pick them up to read again you’ll get a little surprise and some insight into what made an impression on you the first time you read the book.

As with any activity, make sure to keep it fun. Conversations you start while cutting, pasting, painting or putting on other decorations can spill over to book talk that comes up later.

 

Encouraging Girls to Speak Up, Moms to Listen

Not long ago a book-club mom wrote in with a question about an issue that came up in one of my book clubs and many others I have heard of. She said a difficulty she had encountered was “when the mothers are present, the girls seem apprehensive to join in the discussion for fear they will say the ‘wrong’ answer in front of their moms. Or the moms will pressure the girls to answer, when my goal is for the club to be strictly fun with no pressure.” She also wanted to know what I though about creating girl-only book clubs if you can’t find moms who are willing to commit to reading.

Here are a few a my thoughts that may be helpful to others facing similar situations.

It is difficult sometimes for moms to shift their thinking, but part of the beauty of a book club with both generations is that girls and moms should feel more like equals than parent and child when it comes to group discussions. That’s how you really get to know each other and hear each other’s opinions outside of the normal routine of life. If girls feel like they are expected to respond a certain way they will usually clam up.

One of the things I noticed when I was sitting in on my daughter’s elementary school club, is that the emphasis really does need to be on fun. This group started with games and snacks, then moved to book discussion. By the time they sat down to talk about the book, everyone was warmed up being around each other and they seemed to talk more freely.

As for whether girls can have a great book club on their own, they certainly can. And the moms who are interested can still benefit by reading the same books and having time at home to talk about them even if they don’t get  group time. Also, moms can look for ways to bring up the book in a different way. For instance, they could cook a recipe together that goes with the book, even if they are just serving it to family members and not a book club. Any kind of activity like that is likely to generate book discussion in a casual setting.

I guess the bottom line is I believe any kind of group that gets kids reading for fun, and has parents involved somehow, is a good thing in the long run.

As for getting more girls to talk, and sometimes getting the moms to be quiet and listen, you may want to try a few techniques that will help even out the participation. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Implement  a round-robin questions and answer time. So you (or  your daughter) as the host would ask a question, then everyone would take turns answering as you go  in a circle. You can add an item like a baton or fairy wand or some other symbol to pass around that indicates who has the floor at the moment. This
    tends to have everyone focus on the speaker for a moment. You can ask everyone to keep their answers brief until you’ve gone completely around, then open
    it up for more comments afterward if people want to say more.
  • You could also make up an equal number of questions for the members in your group, put them in a bowl, and have everyone take turns pulling a question and
    answering it. Then others can respond once the reader is finished.

These kinds of games encourages everyone to participate without putting the spotlight on the shyer members or openly curbing the more talkative ones. You could also keep a few things ready to say if needed, like “let’s hear from everyone first, then we’ll open it up for more discussion,” or “that’s a great story (for something that seems to be going off track), can we here more about it once we finish talking about the book?”

No one thing will be perfect, and you may have to search for what will work in your group, but creating a safe environment for everyone to speak up will be a big benefit for your group in the long run.

One other thing you could consider is to ask the girls to respond first, then have the moms chime in. You could also play a game like telephone, (where
you whisper a line from the book and have it go around in a circle until the last person says what they hear. It’s usually not close to the real version.) This is a good reminder for everyone to give their attention to the speaker when she’s talking.

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